By Barry Janoff
November 16, 2015: In his first year as commissioner for Major League Baseball, Rob Manfred not only saw strong numbers in attendance and on TV, but in the major category of marketing and partnerships.
MLB scored a total of $778 million in sponsorship spending during the 2015 season, a record for the league and up more than $80 million from the previous record of $695 million in 2014, according to the MLB IEG Sponsorship Report from research, marketing and consulting firm IEG, Chicago.
MLB his past season had official partners and sponsors in 24 categories. That included seven new sponsors: Amazon Web Services, DraftKings, Esurance, Falken Tire, The Hartford, Maytag and Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide. (See full list below.)
MLB's marketing revenue has shown solid growth since 2011, with $663 million in 2013, $626 million in 2012 and $585 million in 2011.
"The alliance with MLB has been terrific," Chris Lee, director of brand partnerships and social engagement at Esurance, about the brand's first-year alliance with MLB, told NYSportsJournalism during a Q&A during the season. "When you look at the digital numbers showing how many people are consuming games and watching highlights and following baseball on social media, the scale is incredible.
"And that's our target audience," said Lee. "People who are tech-savvy, have busy, interactive lives and who, while they might love attending a three-hour baseball game, also want to have information at their fingertips from a digital and social media standpoint.
In comparison to the other three major U.S., sports, MLB trails only the NFL, which had sponsorship revenue in 2014 of $1.15 billion.
Sponsorship spending on the NBA and its 30 teams hit $739 million last season, and the NHL reached $447 million, according to IEG.
Worldwide sponsorship revenue on motor sports topped $5.3 billion, golf hit $1.65 billion in 2014 and tennis was at $739 million, per IEG.
New Era topped the list among MLB's partners, with 94% of properties with a sponsor in the headwear category had a partnership with New Era.
DFS company DraftKings, in its first season aligned with MLB, was involved in 90% of deals.
They were followed by Anheuser-Busch (84%), eBay-StubHub (81%), State Farm (77%), VF Corp. (68%), PepsiCo (65%), Hankook Tire (58%), Berkshire Hathaway (58%) and Toyota (58%).
Among its brands, PepsiCo has as MLB category partners Gatorade, Frito-Lay and Pepsi.
Food and retail replaced alcoholic beverages as the most active categories sponsoring baseball.
Food brands are 4.9 times more likely to sponsor MLB than the average of all sponsors and retail 4.4 times more, according to IEG research.
Alcoholic beverages was third (3.8), followed by insurance (3.8), financial services (3.4), automotive (3.3), QSRs (3.0), sports equipment and apparel (2.7), medical (2.5) and lottery and gaming (2.4).
"The partnership provides Starwood with the ability to connect with the MLB fan base, a large and highly engaged audience that will help support the brand’s repositioning and further drive loyalty," Dave Marr, global brand leader for Sheraton Hotels & Resorts, said when the multi-year alliance was unveiled in October.
Marriott International today (Nov. 16) said it would acquire the Starwood chain, including Sheraton, in a deal valued at $12.2 billion.
Courtyard By Marriott is the official hotel of the NFL, with support including a Super Bowl 50 "Suite Stadium Contest" offering an overnight stay in Levi's Stadium the night before the game this February.
In July, Marriott partnered with the NBA across international games on five different continents, including regular-season games in Mexico City (Dec. 3) and London (Jan. 14).
"When you look at the digital numbers showing how many people consume games, watch highlights and follow baseball on social media, the scale is incredible."
Manfred's presence and MLB's marketing and sponsorship strategy was important to Esurance building and expanding its presence in the league, which included sponsoring MLB's first all-digital All-Star Game balloting and the year-end Esurance MLB Awards.
According to Esurance's Lee, "We felt there were so many equities there. What this new group headed by (first-year) commissioner Rob Manfred is trying to do with the sport is very parallel with what Esurance is doing in the insurance category: Be active and do business online, be innovative leverage the tools of technology and social media and, for us, be the insurance company for today's modern consumer."
Eight MLB teams had what IEG deemed to be "above average" sponsorship revenue: Boston Red Sox, Chicago Cubs, Los Angeles Dodgers, New York Mets, New York Yankees, San Francisco Giants, St. Louis Cardinals and Texas Rangers.
Meanwhile, seven teams had "below average" sponsorship revenues: Arizona Diamondbacks, Baltimore Orioles, Colorado Rockies, Oakland A's, Seattle Mariners, Tampa Bay Rays and the Toronto Blue Jays.
The World Champion Kansas City Royals were among 15 MLB teams that fell into the "average" sponsorship revenue column. That list also included the Atlanta Braves, Cincinnati Reds, Chicago White Sox, Cleveland Indians, Detroit Tigers, Houston Astros, Los Angeles Angels, Miami Marlins, Milwaukee Brewers, Minnesota Twins, Philadelphia Phillies, Pittsburgh Pirates, San Diego Padres and the Washington Nationals, according to the MLB IEG Sponsorship Report.
"This brand alliance with Major League Baseball will help introduce Falken Tires to millions of new customers," Richard Smallwood, president and CEO for Falken Tires, said when the deal was unveiled in September. "We're excited about our new partnership and look forward to aligning our fan bases as we introduce innovative products and our brand to additional audiences."
MLB Partners 2015:
• Amazon (Web services)
• Anheuser-Busch (alcoholic, non-alcoholic malt beverages)
• Bank of America (banking services, affinity credit card)
• Church & Dwight: Arm & Hammer (laundry detergent, baking soda, dish cleaner, air freshener, pet care, dental care, nasal care)
• DraftKings (DFS)
• Esurance (car insurance)
• EMC (online data storage and data security)
• Falken Tire (tires)
• Frito-Lay (salty snacks)
• Gatorade (isotonic beverage, sports and energy drinks)
• The Hartford (home and group benefits insurance)
• General Motors: Chevrolet (foreign and domestic vehicle, including parts and service)
• Gillette (men's and women's shaving/grooming products)
• Head & Shoulders (men's and women's shampoo and conditioner)
• Kellogg's: Pop-Tarts, Cheeze-It, NutriGrain, Rice Krispie Treats (toaster pastries, cookies and crackers, wholesome snacks)
• MasterCard International (credit card, payment system)
• Maytag (washer and dryer)
• Nike (athletic footwear, athletic eyewear)
• Pepsi-Cola (non-alcoholic, non-isotonic, non-milk-based)
• Scotts (lawn care)
• SiriusXM (satellite radio network)
• Starwood: Sheraton, Starwood Preferred Guest (hotel, hotel loyalty program)
• T-Mobile (wireless service, hardware and tablets)
• Taco Bell (QSR World Series)
Falken Tires Drives Global Growth With MLB
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